Trump must hand over tax returns to DA, by judge’s rules
A federal judge on Thursday rejected President Trump’s latest efforts to prevent the Manhattan prosecutor from obtaining his tax returns, categorically dismissing Mr. Trump’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “extremely excessive” and issued in bad faith.
Manhattan District Court Judge Victor Marrero’s ruling marked another setback for the president in his year-long struggle to block the subpoena.
The dispute has already reached the Supreme Court once and could end up there as Mr. Trump’s lawyers quickly filed documents saying he would appeal. Legal wrangling means a final decision is unlikely before the November presidential election.
District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, has been researching Mr. Trump’s personal and business statements and other financial records for eight years as part of an investigation into the president’s business practices.
The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling last month, rejected Mr. Trump’s initial argument that a sitting president has immunity from criminal investigations. But that decision opened the door for the president to return to lower Manhattan court and raise further objections to the subpoena.
Mr Trump renewed his fight by saying the subpoena sought information far beyond the purview of a local district attorney. His lawyers also argued that it was issued in a “stroke of spite”, simply copying a subpoena issued by Congressional Democrats who had been frustrated in their efforts to obtain Mr. Trump’s financial information.
But in his ruling, Judge Marrero dismissed the president’s fresh objections, saying the court proceedings had not “automatically turned into an incident of crippling harassment and unwillingness simply because the proceedings could potentially involve the president.” .
The judge was appointed to the federal bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.
Judge Marrero also agreed with prosecutors that dismissing the subpoena would effectively protect the president and his associates from an investigation, potentially allowing the statute of limitations to expire for any potential crime. This would give the president the protection he had failed to get from the Supreme Court, the judge said.
“Basically, this amounts to absolute backdoor immunity,” Judge Marrero wrote in his 103-page decision.
Reacting to the judge’s ruling, Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, “This is a continuation of the witch hunt, the greatest witch hunt in history. There has never been anything like it.
He added: “We will probably end up in the Supreme Court. “
A spokesperson for Mr. Vance declined to comment.
Shortly after the release of Judge Marrero’s ruling, William S. Consovoy, an attorney for the president, filed an emergency petition asking the judge to bar Mazars USA, the president’s accounting firm, from delivering the statements. of Mr. Trump’s income and other financial documents to prosecutors until Mr. Trump can appeal.
Mr Vance was known to be investigating whether New York state laws were broken when secret money payments were made in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election to two women who said they had had affairs with Mr. Trump.
But Mr Vance’s office recently suggested in a court filing that its investigation was broader, also focusing on potential bank and insurance fraud.
Prosecutors, defending their subpoena for Mr. Trump’s cases, cited “uncontested public reports of possibly widespread and prolonged criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.” Mr Vance’s office made it clear in court recently that it views tax returns as central evidence in its investigation.
Breaking with a 40-year presidential tradition, Mr. Trump has not released his tax returns and has aggressively fought attempts to obtain them.
His lawyers have successfully filed a lawsuit to block efforts to access his statements and other financial records compiled by Congressional Democrats and New York lawmakers. After Mr. Trump challenged a California law requiring presidential primary candidates to release their tax returns, a federal judge ruled in his favor. But the arguments put forward in these cases were based on more narrow grounds.
Mr. Vance’s subpoena for Mr. Trump’s returns was first sent in August 2019 to Mazars USA.
The following month, Mr. Trump filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal District Court, where he made his initial argument on immunity.
Judge Marrero, in a ruling last October, rejected this position, calling the argument that Mr. Trump was immune from criminal investigation “repugnant to the government structure and constitutional values of the nation. “.
In that decision, Judge Marrero also said that unless there was more evidence from the president, he did not believe the district attorney was acting in bad faith.
Ultimately, the case reached the Supreme Court, which last month ruled against Mr. Trump by 7 votes to 2. “No citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty of producing evidence when called in criminal proceedings. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.
Chief Justice Roberts, however, said Mr. Trump could still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the subpoena, prompting the president’s new arguments before Judge Marrero.
“The Mazars subpoena is so sweeping,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers told Judge Marrero in court documents last month, “that it is an unguided and illegal fishing expedition in relations personal financial and business affairs of the president.
Mr Vance’s office has repeatedly accused the president of using delaying tactics to avoid having to comply with a legal subpoena.
Even if Mr. Vance got the tax records, they would be covered by grand jury secrecy rules and likely wouldn’t be made public. The records could only appear in public if charges were laid later and the records were presented as evidence in a trial.